Gov. Abbott faces criticism over lack of border wall action: ‘Is it a cynical political ploy?’

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Saturday, Governor Greg Abbott gave his latest briefing on security at the Texas-Mexico border: where questions about his proposed border wall caused some friction.

It’s the latest of several Abbott events focusing on the border and Texas’ plans for management of a current migrant surge. Abbott explained that the state is working to find adequate jail space for migrants who are arrested, in addition to allocating money to pay judges to work on the arrest cases.

Abbott was joined by several state officials, in addition to many sheriffs of Texas border cities, who expressed their concerns. According to the governor, “literally everybody” in the room reported a high number of dangerous high speed chases happening in their areas.

“This really doesn’t capture the magnitude of the danger that law enforcement officers are going through when they go through those high speed chases — as well as the danger to local residents,” said Abbott. “When you have speeding cars trying to escape law enforcement in your local community, you never know when those cars are going to be running to somebody. Killing somebody who is a Texas resident.”

Abbott claimed an increase in stash houses and locations have been reported, saying that gang and cartel members and smugglers are using these sites to hide while traveling.

The governor has mostly laid blame at the feet of the Biden administration, telling former Pres. Donald Trump at a border event last month: “Mr. President, things have changed so quickly and so dramatically under the Biden administration. It’s been amazing and disastrous.”

He echoed much of the same on Saturday, pointing at the Biden White House for long-term solutions after a “complete abandonment of enforcing laws.”

Watch the full press briefing below:

Abbott did not lay out any specific legislation during the event — or elaborate on plans for addressing the border aside from saying strategies were in the works.

“The people in the white hats [cowboy hats worn by Texas sheriffs] in front of me, they are the tip of the spear,” said Abbott. “They are the ones who are having to deal with the most immediate consequences of the incredible, large influx of people coming across the border.”

The governor said the border sheriffs will be in Austin throughout the week as the legislature convenes for its special session, where more funding for border security is on the table.

Texas-Mexico border wall

Near the briefing’s end, Abbott rebuffed a journalist’s question about a proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, which Abbott has recently made a focal point of discussion.

Gov. Abbott recently authorized a $250 million transfer for the project — reminiscent of the Trump administration’s similar border wall — to identify where fencing needs to go and start building.

“You’ve said before, you said a month ago, you were going to build a wall,” said the reporter. “As I recall, you say you don’t have a plan, you don’t know where it’s going to go, you don’t know how much it’s going to cost, and you don’t know how long it’s going to take… is it a cynical political ploy?”

Abbott called the question “very uninformed” and assured that much has changed recently and that many things are being put into place, including construction bids to build the wall.

“The speed at which the wall will be able to be built is coming along faster than what we thought,” Abbott pushed back, when asked if the wall would be built in his lifetime.

The reporter pressed back, asking Abbott why he believed $250 million would be enough to build the wall when the Trump administration said it needed (but failed to secure) $12 billion to do the same thing. The question was not answered.

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